Symploce (sim’-plo-see or sim’-plo-kee): The combination of anaphora and epistrophe: beginning a series of lines, clauses, or sentences with the same word or phrase while simultaneously repeating a different word or phrase at the end of each element in this series.

If there was one thing I hated, it was paper towels. They were too easy to tear off and use. They set the expectation that you’d blot up every damn spill, no matter how small. They set the expectation that you’d swish a towel around on droplets of liquid, no matter how small. Well, maybe it wasn’t the towels that set the expectation. It was actually my mother.

There were so many rules about cleaning up I grew up thinking the world is a dirty place—a place where micro-bits of rat poop could be mixed into your breakfast cereal, fingernail clippings in your potato chips, parasites in your lightly grilled cod, microscopic mites in your Graham crackers—the list is nearly endless. Mother wore a jeweler’s loupe around her neck. Even though she cooked it, we had to pass plates to her so she could microscopically examine our food for “potentially fatal” unauthorized ingredients.

If we were watching TV and one of us farted into a couch cushion, mother would yell “Unauthorized emission!” turn off the TV, chase us off the couch, wheel her drum of Lysol up to the couch, and pump and spray until she was satisfied that the “gaseous matter” had been dispelled, and the “nasal and pulmonary dangers” had been eliminated. Then, she’d turn the TV back on like nothing had happened while the rest of us sat on the Lysol-soaked couch. You can imagine what would happen if somebody farted in the family car! Once, we rolled down the windows for 100 miles in winter, even though it was only 25 miles to Grandma’s house. It was 3 below zero and I got frostbite on my ears. My mother told me it was better than being gassed and maybe going blind, or becoming “a basket case.”

When I went away to college, I couldn’t escape Mother’s influence. While other kids got snacks, and socks, and other things in their care packages, I got cleaning supplies. Once, my mother sent me a case of Clorox sanitizing wipes. It would take a normal person a year to use them up, but Mom reckoned she would have to replenish my supply in two weeks. She even sent me a custom-made holster to carry my wipes in—wearing them on my hip like a gunslinger.

Since I have graduated from college, I have broken most contact with my family, especially my mother, whose sanitary mania drove me away. Since the estrangement, I have gone to the other extreme. I smell like a blend of B.O. and unwashed butt. I don’t even look at my food before I eat it. The floor is sticky with untended spills. The bathroom is a mildew garden. The kitchen is a roach rodeo when the lights go out. In short, my apartment is teeming with life, but it smells really bad. So, I bought some Lysol. I told myself, “This is a one-time thing to kill the smell.” I took a shower before I went to the grocery store. When I got back to the apartment, I sprayed a couple of bursts of Lysol around.

I could feel a change was starting to flow over me. Although I had thought I had made a clean break from the past, things were bubbling up, and washing my preconceptions down the drain. I needed balance—we all need balance, everywhere in our lives, or else we wreck our own and others’ lives. I vaguely remembered from college, the Greek blabbermouth Aristotle, who makes us all look feeble minded, came up with the Golden Rule—not too much, not too little. Kind of like Goldilocks’ take on mattresses, and porridge, and other things. I took a sniff of my apartment and it all made sense. After spraying a little Lysol around, the smell had lifted. It hardly smelled at all—it smelled just right. I called my mother for the first time in months and told her what had happened. She told me I was in danger, and not to let my guard down. Just to be safe, I hung up and sprayed some more Lysol around the apartment and wiped down the kitchen counters with disinfectant.

Balance. I needed balance. Everything was going be just right.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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